“As no man is born an artist, no man is born an angler.”

Why do people fly fish, and what separates fly fishing as a whole different category of fishing? Most anglers start off with a spinning reel, which is a great introduction to the world of fishing. However, as anglers grow and learn in the sport of fishing, they begin to explore other techniques that provide a slightly different types of experience.

Traditional fishing may involve casting a baited hook and waiting for a fish to bite or casting and retrieving a lure. Fly fishing in a stream or river involves fly casting repeatedly with brief pauses to allow the fly to float in the current. It is a finesse style of fishing that takes much practice to perfect. Fly fishing is often seen as an art form, and as such comes with a whole new understanding scope of respect for nature.

So what exactly are the differences, and what elevates a gear fisherman to transition into fly fishing?

When it comes to practicalities, there are a few key differences:

  • Long light weight rods
  • Large arbor fly reels that can hold thick fly line.

  • Instead of using bait or gear, fly fishermen use flies that imitate fishes natural food sources such as minnows, bugs, flies, etc

  • Long light weight rods

  • Instead of depending on the weight of the lure or bait to cast out, fly fishing instead relies on the weight of the line to cast the weightless fly far distances.

  • Fly fishing requires constant casting and retrieving, stripping the line by hand. This is physically more demanding than other methods of fishing.

Apart from the practical differences, fly fishing is often labeled as the purer form of fishing. That is because it requires patience, skills and craftsmanship alongside understanding of the natural habitats of the species you plan to target. Fly fishing encompasses you to be a true master of your environment, knowing what bugs are in season, where fish are holding and their feeding habits. The flies themselves are a work of art, by carefully collecting feathers and materials, fishermen are able to create flies that represent what fish naturally feeding on.

Fly fishing is more challenging technically, than the conventional methods. Are you able to create a fly that entices fish? Can you successfully cast your fly exactly to where the fish are feeding? Are you able to connect with the fish and successfully land the fish, while at the same time managing your line, reel and rod.

All this is why you see romantic stories and movies told around the art of flyfishing, like A River Runs Through It. It’s just a more poetic and artful form of the sport of fishing.

Now that we know the why, lets get into the how!

What Kind of Gear Do You Need?

As you begin your journey into the world of flyfishing, you may come to realize there is so much to know about fly fishing products. It may seem intimidating at first with the different rods and reels, the different types of line weights and differences in flies. However do not fret! We will break down the basics for you and go into detail, you most likely will not need 70% of the things you see, but as you master the art of flyfishing you will begin to purchase more specialized products to fit your style.

Picking The Right Fly Rod

Fly rods are rated by weight. The weight of the rod represents which type of fishing line should match the rod. Generally you can size up or down by one size, which is why a 5wt is the best all around size for a trout rod. Most people think about fish species when it comes to choosing a weight of the rod, however I would also encourage you to think about the size of fly you will be casting. The length of the fly rod will depend on your personal preference and environment you will be fishing in. Longer rods will cast farther and provide a better hook set. While shorter rods allow you to be more agile and accurate. As a general rule on rod weights:

  • 1-4: sunfish and small trout, small streams
  • 4-6: general trout, larger streams and rivers
  • 6-8: bass, carp, light steelhead, salmon. and saltwater
  • 8-10: steelhead, salmon, and saltwater
  • 10-14: big game fish

Picking The Right Fly Reel

Reels, just as rods – are also rated by weight and size. When buying a new reel, begin by matching the reel size to your rod for a correctly balanced setup. For example – if you’re fishing a 6 weight trout rod, you will want to pair it with a 6 weight reel.

Another thing to consider when buying a reel is the type of line you will be using and how much backing it can hold. Most reels hold 2 to 3 sizes of line – ie. a 6 weight reel will handle both 5 weight and 7 weight lines.
There are many reels on the market today, however a couple tips to look for when buying a reel: does the reel have sealed bearings? This would allow your reel to have much lower maintenance and last much longer. Does it have a quick release spool? This would allow you to change fly lines quickly when you are on the water. It is recommended that you purchase an extra spool if possible – And always have the option to switch between lines at any moment.

Fly Selection

The most important factor for fly fishing is the bait or in this sense, the artificial flies made to imitate what the fish are eating – Bugs, minnows, larvae, leaches, and of course, flies. For larger fish, larger flies are sometimes used; mouse, frogs, crayfish and other creatures.

There are a multitude of different sizes of flies – dry flies, chironomids, streamers etc. Your fly selection will typically be dependent on the fish species you are trying to catch as well as the environment. Fly fishermen will often change out their flies depending on the situation of their environment, an insect hatch may appear – therefore switching to a dry fly will be much more effective than casting a leech pattern. This is why fly fishermen are often amateur ichthyologists otherwise known as fish scientists and entomologists, otherwise known as insect scientists. They know exactly what the fish are feeding on and during what season.

Flies truly are a work of art, there is no greater pleasure than tying your own fly using animal hair, foam, beads, etc that mimics a natural food source then watching a fish fall for it as it gobbles up your fly. Tying your own fly also saves you money as flies can get quite expensive to buy from tackle shops. There are many sources you can learn about tying your own flies from sources such as Orvis – Fly tying guide.

Line Selection

Fly lines are one of the most important aspects of fly fishing, the fly line you select determines if you will be fishing top water, mid water or deep water. The basic break down of fly lines are separated into 3 categories:

  1. Float line
    Floating line as the name suggests, floats on top of the water. This is great for casting dry flies, that sit on top of the waters surface, float lines can also be used with heavier flies that can be stripped when retrieving.
  2. Intermediate line
    Intermediate lines are created so that it sinks at a very slow pace, this allows the angler to place the fly at specific depths where the fish are.
  3. Full sink line
    Full sink lines have a lead core, therefore allowing it to sink at a very rapid rate. This rate is measured by IPS (inch per second) this line is used for fishing deep pools where you want to get your fly down as quickly as possible.

Typically, backing line should take up approximately ¼ of your spool before transitioning to your fly line. The fly line itself should run around 150 ft, before transitioning to your leader line. Monofilament or fluorocarbon lines can be used to make up the 4’-6’ of leader line. I personally prefer using flourocarbon as it is nearly impossible for fish to see. Flourocarbon also has very good abrasion resistance as well as allowing for powerful hook sets

Unlike spin fishing, it is the fly lines weight that allows the angler to cast the fly out, the fly itself is almost weightless so all the momentum is generated though casting the line. Fly line selection is important because if a wrong type of line is chosen, the angler will have significant difficulty casting, while scaring away all the fish. Since fly line selection is often confusing and a tricky subject, I have created a section dedicated to understand fly lines in-depth.

Knot Tying

Knot tying is one of the most important factors of fly fishing, or fishing in general. It is what will be the make or break of a successful trip or being skunked. One of the most useful knots you will use in fly fishing will be a line to line knots. These knots will allow you to tie the backing line to the fly line, then the fly line to the leader line.

Methods of Casting

Now that you have your gear selection and picked out, it is time to learn the art of casting.
This is the fun part! There are many different methods of fly casting, and we will touch base on how to perfect these methods and techniques.

The art of fly casting is truly an art form, where the rod acts as an extension of your arm. You will hear over and over again, one of the most important factors in fly fishing comes down to presentation. And the presentation all comes down to the cast. While the common back cast is fairly easy to master, it is not always possible nor the best option. Therefore it is crucial to be able to cast your fly under any circumstances you are faced with.

Casting is one of the hardest things to master when fly fishing, there are many different methods of fly casting. The way a fly line is casted, with the movement of the arms – delicately placing the fly on the water exactly on your target, truly is art in motion.

Below are 4 of the most common ways to cast, once this skill is mastered you will be able to face any fishing obstacle:


The overhead cast is the bread and butter of casts, it is the cast you need to master in order to be a successful fly fisherman. Although it may look intimidating to learn at first, with practice comes perfection. Watching a experienced fly fisherman cast 50 feet of line may look intimidating, however truthfully most fish can be caught between 10-30 feet. The overhead cast can be used on boats, rivers, lakes and most terrains. While more specialized techniques listed below will provide more intricate fly presentation depending on your surroundings.


The double haul is essentially an extension of the overhead cast. The double haul technique is essentially like adding a turbo to boost power. This method is meant for long distance casting or when throwing large flies. By helping tug the slack line as you are hauling, the momentum creates additional bend to your rod, this force is then translated into more powerful casts. The double haul is great for saltwater distance casting or when cutting through strong wind.


The Roll cast is one of the most important casts to learn as it allows you to cast in extremely tight spots. The roll cast does not require space behind you for backcasting, therefore a perfect casting method for when you are in areas with rock faces or trees behind you. It may be tricky to master at first, but you will find the roll cast comes in handy in many different situations. The roll cast also works great in windy conditions, instead of using a normal roll cast that can tangle and potentially embed a fly in you, try a roll cast!


The bow and arrow fly casting method was invented by Joe Humpfreys, this casting method is perfect for when you are fishing small streams or rivers with lot of overhead cover or low hanging branches. When there is no room for backcast or roll casting, the bow and arrow provides a very intricate or direct cast towards your target. This is one of the most difficult casts to master, as it is extremely intricate and requires exact precision. The cast is exactly as it sounds like. First, by loading up your rod (the bow) by pulling the line, then allowing it to shoot the fly out (your arrow). For greater distances, create a bundle of looped line, pinch the loops tightly, draw back and fire!